There are buildings closing with large 'For Sale' signs posted. Some of these pieces of real estate don't even wait long enough to sell; they just tear them down and leave a pile of ruble where a structure once stood.
I understand progress.
But it's the idea that another pile of bricks would be Oh! So much better than renovating the existing one, bothers me. It just seems so wasteful. So disposable. So inherently wrong.
Nearby was a plaza that held a Target store, a grocery store, a toy store, a bank, a restaurant and some various other miscellaneous small shops. It was a prosperous, busy little center. Less than a block away was a shopping mall. Westgate when they built it in 1954 was once an outdoor mall touted as the first suburban shopping center in Ohio. It was a big deal. They enclosed it in the late 60's to make it more shopper friendly and compete with two new neighboring 'roofed' malls. Here in the north, snow and rain can make strolling outside shopping malls slightly unpleasant.
Recently Westgate Mall was torn down to put in a 'super plaza'; several strip malls connected by parking spaces and brick walkways. Whoopee. It's sister shopping center further west boasts condominiums above the shops. Both of these have gone back to the outdoor shopping experience of the 50's, although Crocker Park has heated sidewalks to melt the snow in inclement weather.
They tore down the old mall. Built a new mall-ish shopping area and the stores from the old plaza moved to the new plaza and left the old shopping area vacant. Empty. Two of the buildings were torn down, the others remain intact but abandoned. Weeds are growing in the parking lot which is now also vacant except for a few cars with sale signs propped in their windows. Yippee. Now that's what I call progress.
My friend Chrissy and I periodically get together over at Crocker Park. We walk along enjoying the company, perusing the windows, buying a few things and then stop at one of the eateries for refreshment. Our last rendez-vous was right before Christmas. What we pictured was strolling through the shopping area with the seasonal carolers, heated sidewalks and bountiful storefronts complete with soft falling snow. What we got was us quickly ducking into stores with the blustering wind and sleet blowing us into each and every one. In years past we've been blissfully seated in the very front near the windows. But last year the hostess marched to the back of the restaurant. She placed us so far back, tears were streaming from our faces from laughter as we neared the furthest table from the door.
"Where the hell is she taking us? Out the back door?", Chrissy asked.
"Darlin', I think our 'hot chick diva' days must be over. They're hiding us in the back.", I choked while catching my breath.
"Yeah. I suppose this God-damned weather didn't help at all.", she replied. "Can we go to an indoor mall next time?"
Now Chrissy is gorgeous. Rain soaked or not. Me? That brisk walk around Crocker Park left my hair, once bouncy and full, plastered to my head. A little rain might make your skin look moist and youthful, but this weather wasn't achieving that result for me. I'm sure that whomever thought outdoor shopping would be fun wasn't thinking about northern Ohio's temperate climate. I don't understand why the 4 newest shopping areas have embraced this outdoor plan. If you live in Arizona, California or Georgia where the weather is mild most of the time, it's a grand idea. Up here where it's either raining, or snowing at least 6 months of the year? Maybe not so much.
But yesterday I noticed in my little community on the North Coast, there is yet another building on the sale block. A Lutheran church, to be exact. What troubles me is less than a mile down the road an Apolistic church was up for sale. The latter of which has since been torn down. These are just two of many in my community that are closed or are closing.
The parish of Saint James that we belong to (pictured above) has been slated to close with dozens of other churches operating under the Cleveland Diocese. Appeals have been made to Rome to allow our church to remain open. The City of Lakewood is in the process of trying to designate it as a Landmark and over $700,000 in pledges have been collected to help restore and protect the church from demolition.
Bishop Richard Lennon has chosen 50 churches to be closed in the Cleveland area. He has failed to speak publicly on this issue, but has suggested that it is necessary "in the face of a shortage of priests, dwindling collection-basket cash and a change in Catholic demographics."
What will they do with all these closed structures? A rich and wonderful history follows each and every brick or stone placed. The architecture and workmanship can never be re-placed. Yet, there are no plans for these buildings. What were once cornerstones within little neighborhood enclaves are now on the block for sale with their future uncertain.
The Lutheran church with the huge 'FOR SALE' sign once had a thriving school associated with it as well. Now it stands completely empty. The gorgeous Apolistic church that was located across the street from St. James is now...nothing. A fenced in lot with remnants of bricks and mortar that once housed a place of worship. A heavy metal distribution company is trying to buy yet another church for sale, but with the name Hell's Headbangers, all other business's in the area are trying to block it's purchase. They would prefer to have it razed instead.
Is this the wave of the future? This disposable mind-set bothers me. It always has. But in light of the recent changes of real estate of my community, it bothers me even more. Did we really need a Dunkin' Donuts where a church once stood? Another CVS? Another Starbucks or gas station? Did Drug Mart really need to build directly across the street from it's previous location? Sherwin-Williams built a new facility across the street. Tearing down their old building to build a Walgreens. When Walgreens old building is now vacant?
Does any of that make sense?
It's not like these new buildings are that much improved over the old ones in my view. It's just another brick 'box' to house 'stuff'.
The Montessori school my daughter used to attend was in the old Elementary building for Bay Village. The City didn't renew Montessori's lease, so our school moved. They bought what was a closed church and renovated it to their needs. (I thought that was cool.) The old elementary school it once inhabited is gone. It's just a big vacant plot of land where this majestic old brick school stood. A grassy lot with a flagstone walkway that once led to the big double entrance doors. Nothing has been built there. It's not even a park. It's empty. That was 8 years ago.
Explain that to me.
Why can't we use or reuse the buildings that exist? Is it just me?
I have visited many European countries over the years. My cousin was married in a chapel in northern England that was built in 832. I have family members in Hungary that live in a house that's been in the family for centuries. I've taken photographs of the Basilica of St. George and Charles Bridge in Prague. These are all phenomenal structures.
I wish that Americans would embrace some of our architectural history. Granted, at this rate of demolition, we will never have a chapel standing for someone to get married in that is 1200 years old. If it gets to be 100, that's an amazing feat.
Because I'm sure in that 100 years, someone, several times over, has wanted to tear it down.
And build a strip mall.
Or parking lot.
I'm not so sure.
Post Script: To learn more about the plight of Cleveland's Churchs, specifically Saint James Cathedral, you can go here.